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Archive for the ‘Of Monsters and Men’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 8, 2019] The Head and the Heart

After being really impressed by Of Monsters and Men last month, I had pretty high hopes for being impressed by The Head and The Heart as well (because I get the two bands mixed up even though I like them both).

It was the same venue, although this time we had seats instead of the GA section.

It was nice to not worry about your location between acts.  But holy crap, the people around me sucked so bad that they ruined the whole night.  I am writing this ten days after the show and I hate to say that I am still annoyed by them all.

The people next to me came and went and came and went and came and went all while we were seated.

The guy in front of me was an old man (older than me even).  During Illiterate Light we thought it was cute that he and his wife (I assume) were videoing things and being adorable together.  Then during The Head and The Heart he stood up.  And was a freaking giant.  Worse yet, the people next to them didn’t come to the show, so they had a lot of room, which meant he spread out and stood right in front of me (and here I was excited about having empty seats in front of me).  He also filmed nearly every song, but rather than being discrete or considerate of the people behind him, he held yup his camera to his face which meant elbows out thereby blocking even more of my view.  His wife also filmed a lot but she apparently didn’t realize that phone cameras come with a flash, because it was on every time she took videos.  How it took the people in front of them six songs to actually say something (and they were very polite about it) I can’t imagine.

But the worst were the people behind us.  A loud row of eight loud talking, loud boasting, loud everything.  The craziest thing about them is that they were all huge fans of the band, they knew every word, knew when they played a “rare” song and sang along to just about every lyric. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 10, 2019] Of Monsters and Men

Back at Christmas 2011, S. bought me the debut albums by Of Monsters and Men and The Head and the Heart.  I instantly fell in love with both bands (and sometimes can’t tell who is who when I hear one of their songs).  This concert might help me distinguish but we’re also seeing The Head and the Heart in the same venue in a month.

But maybe the spectacle of this show will help me distinguish them.

Because it was a wonderful spectacle.

I love thinking about how this band of six or seven musicians from Iceland somehow conquered the world with their singalong anthems.  It’s also fascinating to me that they only released their third album this year.

I really like the new album.  It sounds a bit different (more synthy, poppy) but it remains very OMAM.

They played a lot from the new album which was fine. In fact, they played 19 songs in total, spanning all of their records, but focusing mainly on their first and third releases. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 10, 2019] Lower Dens

Back in 2010, Lower Dens did a Tiny Desk Concert.  I watched it in 2015 and really liked them.  Everything that I liked about them involved the interplay of singer Jana Hunter’s guitar with either the vocals or the bass.   So I was pretty happy to see that they were going to open for Of Monsters and Men.

A few days ago I listened to the new Lower Dens album and really didn’t like it all that much.  It’s more synthy, but that’s not why I didn’t like it.  I certainly liked the lyrics, but I just didn’t like the whole delivery.

I didn’t really know what to expect when the band came on stage.

Front and center was Jana Hunter.  Hunter looked very masculine (I loved the shirt Hunter was wearing), but that was rather puzzling because I thought the singer was a woman.  Plus the whole set was very synthy and didn’t sound like those early songs at all.  I genuinely wondered if I had the wrong band in my head.

I have since read that Hunter is gender fluid, so that’s cool.  Hunter’s voice really does run the gamut from low to high, so Hunter’s gender doesn’t make any difference to the voice.

But that still doesn’t change the fact that I was really bored by the set. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OF MONSTERS AND MEN-“Mountain Sound” (Field Recordings, June 13, 2012).

When this song first came out I was instantly smitten by it.  The combination of male and female vocals, the big chorus and interesting instrumentation were just terrific.  And the song is catchy as anything.

And then the rest of the world thought the same and this song became inescapable.

Around the same time I heard Of Monsters and Men, I also heard The Head and the Heart who had a similar aesthetic.  And I still have a hard time telling them apart (even if OMAM is from Iceland and THATH is from Seattle).

This Field Recording [Of Monsters And Men Brings Out The Sun] was filmed on the first day of the Sasquatch! Music Festival.

We managed to get backstage of the Gorge Amphitheater to capture a live session with one of the hottest new bands to hit the festival circuit, Of Monsters and Men. No strangers to natural beauty, the Icelanders were nevertheless stunned by the picturesque backdrop of the Gorge as they performed “Mountain Sound,” one of the new songs added to the American release of their debut album.

“We sleep until the sun goes down,” they sang repeatedly while the sun instead broke through the clouds as if called out by the song’s radiant optimism. The band will continue to thrill fans in larger and larger venues, but it’s private moments like this when Of Monsters and Men best displays its natural charm.

This is a wonderfully low-key take on the song with just a couple of guitars, and accordion and a trumpet (and a big plastic drum as the percussion).

I’ve heard this song so many times that it’s nice to hear it in such an unadorned fashion.  To actually hear the two lead vocals–how unusual they sound.  And to see how much fun the band is having playing at the Sasquatch Festival (yes, in Seattle).

[READ: November 12, 2018] “Show Recent Some Love”

I love Sam Lipsyte’s stories.  I love the tone and breeziness he showcases, even in stories with serious undertones.

This story ( I assume it is an excerpt) is unofficially set during the #metoo movement.  Mike Maltby was recently fired from his own company: “Only an ogre could defend Mike Maltby.”  Isaac, the protagonist, was not an ogre–maybe a jerk–said Nina his life partner.

But Isaac agreed that Mike’s ouster was for the best–Mike had done all kinds of heinous things in executives suites, “because it wasn’t about sex.  It was about power.  And sex.  And probably a few other things.”

But Isaac felt a twinge of remorse because Maltby had hired him and “had also been, weirdly enough for a brief time, his stepfather.” (more…)

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fish SOUNDTRACK: CHAPPO-Future Former Self (2015).

chappoCHAPPO opened for The Flaming Lips, and I enjoyed them enough to get their CD. Since I bought it, I have listened to it nonstop.  While I enjoyed their live show, I never expected the subtle nuances that were present on the disc.  It’s entirely possible that the band’s sound got lost somewhat in the huge open-air stadium that they played in.  They also rocked pretty hard live, so I was surprised by the more psychedelic sound they achieved on disc.

I feel like they achieved an interesting mix of psychedelia and Britpop, which I would never expect.  The album opens with “Hello” a gentle psychedelic song with whistling and a jaunty melody.  I like the unexpected riff that comes in the verse before returning to the really catchy opening melody again.  About half way through the song changes into something bigger—a very cool switch which turns the seemingly simple ditty into something even more interesting.

“Hang On” is wonderfully catchy single. Opening with washes of keyboards and a cool guitar riff, the vocals are gentle and then the bridge comes in and the song lifts to a new level. And then the chorus comes in and things get even bigger. It’s wonderfully crafted.  I saw this song live and while it was good live, and it was definitely fun.  After a quiet moment (with interesting processed vocals), the big chorus returns and you can’t help but sing along.

“I’m Not Ready” switches gears pretty radically, with a chugging riff and 70s synths thrown over the top. The chorus is much more guitar heavy but is not heavy itself–sort of the way the Cars sound.  “I Don’t Need the Sun” shifts gears again with more interesting keyboard sounds sprinkled over the sunny guitar lines.  The lyrics to this one get stuck in my head all the time.

“Run Me Into the Ground” opens with seemingly contradictory keyboard notes and guitar riff. They come together nicely into a pretty verse which all melds into a huge grabbing chorus.  “Mad Magic” opens with a kind of disco/reggae guitar line and Alex Chappo’s falsetto for certain notes.  I love the lyrics to this one too: “My wife is indispensable she will succeed because she has to she will succeed with magic.”  A multilayered chorus really complements the opening riffs and the lines “we’ll be floating while they are coasting” is very cool.

“Hey-O” has a simple catchy gesture with a group singing Hey-O Hey-O that reminds me a bit of Of Monsters and Men.  “Something’s Ringing” is a delicate ballad with a lot of falsetto (and I find Alex’s to me unusual pronunciation of some of the words strangely compelling). I like the way the odd helicopter sound ends the song as it takes off.

“Orange Afternoon” has a sleazy guitar sound and vocal that reminds me a bit of Suede. But the chorus changes direction entirely getting  brighter and brighter.  But moments of that sleaze come back and intersperse interestingly with the bright guitars.

“Ghetto Weekend” is a trippy song to end with.  There’s talking going on, and also a languid guitar.  But it’s interfused with guitar soloing which is echoed and at times seems to not stop. But the switch to the bridge is a great change of pace from the mellow opening—it a great trick, the kind that CHAPPO does so well.

I can’t think of another band that I saw live without knowing their music and was subsequently even more blown away by their album which of course makes me want to see them again in a  more intimate venue.

[READ; June 22, 2015] Fish in the Dark

I’m not sure if I would have known this play was by Larry David just by reading it, but since I knew it was by him, I could tell unmistakably that it was David’s writing (and voice) while I was cracking up.

One wonders why David chose to write a play as a opposes to a screenplay, but then, by doing this it allowed him to get away from his normal characters (even if these ones act just like the characters in anything else he has done).

This is the story of a family.  Norman (played by Larry David) is a put upon husband.  His wife doesn’t want to sleep with him anymore (she has a very funny rejoinder to him in the first scene).  His mother is overbearing (and hates his wife).  His brother, Arthur, is wealthy, recently divorced and is living it up thinking only about himself.  And he just received a phone call that his father is one the verge of death. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OF MONSTERS AND MEN-Live from Iceland Airwaves (2011).

This brief set was recorded at KEX hostel in Reykjavik, Iceland (how on earth KEXP in Seattle was there I don’t know).  This set was performed before the release of their debut EP, although “Dirty Paws” which they play was not on that EP.  “Little Talks” their (reasonably) huge hit them was on the EP and is on their full length album–it’s a great duet (and reminds me a bit of Stars).

There’s an amusing fail in the horn solo on “Lake House,” which is kind of surprising, but not terribly tragic or anything.  The band sounds great, especially in front of a home country crowd (I love hearing them say “Takk” at the end of the songs).  There’s five songs in all, and by  the final one, they feel  sound like they’re really enjoying themselves.

[READ: September 1, 2012] Wampeters, Foma & Granfaloons

This collection contains essays reviews and speeches.  So it’s non-fiction.  Except that, ever the contrarian, Vonnegut includes one fiction piece–a short play.  The title of this book comes from three words from his novel Cat’s Cradle: “a wampeter is an object around which the lives of many otherwise unrelated people may revolve.  The Holy Grail would be a case in point.  Foma are harmless untruths, intended to comfort simple souls.  An example: ‘Prosperity is just around the corner.’ A granfallooon is a proud and meaningless association of human beings.”

That all comes from the preface.  The preface also says that there are people who have collected everything he has ever written (even stuff he has forgotten about) but he will not let most of that see the light of day.  Here he has whittled down the least embarrassing stuff for publication.  He also explains that at some point (supported by reading this) he decided to stop giving speeches; to stop “talking” and to concentrate on writing.  So he did.

The final straw for this was a comment from the President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  Vonnegut had prepared a speech.  The president reread it and hated it, but the president told Vonnegut that nobody would actually listen to the words: “People are seldom interested in the actual content of a speech.  They simply want to learn from your tone and gestures and expressions whether or not you are an honest man.”

While Vonnegut’s essays are powerful and effective, it’s the Preface that really tells it straightg.”Not nearly as many Biafrans were butchered by the Nigerians at the end of the war as I had thought would be.  At a minimum those damaged children at the exact middle of the universe will be more honorable than Richard M Nixon.  [Nixon] is the first president to hate the American people and all they stand for.”

Get ready for a happy collection. (more…)

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